Iain Dale: The Education Recovery Plan. Williamson has very little capital to expend. Will it be Marcus Rashford to the rescue?

4 Jun

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.

I must admit I did have a little chuckle when I saw that Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds had managed to get married without any member of Her Majesty’s Fourth Estate finding out about it. It just shows that it is possible, just about, to keep a secret in today’s gossip-filled society.

Naturally, though, some people couldn’t quite bring themselves to congratulate the happy couple on their day of joy. Plenty of commentators decided to indulge in a bit of Talleyrand-esque “what did they mean by that” speculation. Leading the charge was my good friend Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who Tweeted this:

I scratch my head and wonder to myself how an intelligent person could come up with a conspiracy theory like that. If Johnson really wanted to distract from anything, wouldn’t he have had an all guns blazing type of wedding, with peals of bells ringing out, TV cameras present and naked dwarves wearing nipple tassels at the reception? And while he’s at it, get a blind trust to pay for it. Now that really would be a distraction.

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I’ve experienced a lot of Twitter pile-ons in my time, but this week has been something to behold. Now I generally make it a rule never to intervene in the burgeoning debate about self-gendering and trans rights. Mainly because no good ever comes of it.

On Monday I broke that rule and tweeted something which I thought was quite balanced.

What I had failed to comprehend is that you can as nuanced as you like and still fail in a quest to be balanced. The wrath of Hades immediately descended on me. The Tweet attracted more than 1,100 replies, with both sides of the argument professing to be outraged.

Next up was Darren Grimes who I invited on to my Cross Question panel on Tuesday evening. You’d have thought I’d invited the devil himself. We cover all sorts of subjects in the hour long programme, just like Question Time or Any Questions. I’ve always found Darren to be one the most articulate exponents of the arguments for Brexit, and the fact that he comes from a working-class background in the North East gives him a different perspective on all sorts of levelling up debates.

But the North London polenta-eating intelligentsia can’t cope with a North East accent challenging their preconceptions of what they think is best for the hoi-polloi. This was typified by a Matt cartoon in The Telegraph this week which should a Labour canvasser at a council house door holding a clipboard and asking: “So who are you racist fascists going to vote for then?”

The argument quickly descended from “Well you shouldn’t have him on, he’s not a virologist” (note: Paul Mason, Chris Green and Caroline Flint, the other panellists, aren’t either, but they escaped that one) to “You clearly want to sleep with him” and then ultimately “You just feel sorry for him because he’s got a small penis.”

Well, that’s a winning argument if ever I heard one. And they say people on the right are the nasty ones.

I’ll continue to invite who I damn well like onto my show, and hang the consequences. Just imagine what they’ll say when I invite David Starkey back on *opens contacts book*.

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Yet another unforced error from the Government, this time over the Education Recovery Plan.

So far we haven’t had an intervention from Marcus Rashford, the Shadow Education Secretary, but it can surely be only a matter of time before he shames the Government into yet another u-turn.

It should never have been this way. If you appoint an expert to be your adviser and then he finds out you’re only taking 10 per cent of his advice, don’t be surprised if he then quits in high dudgeon. And that’s exactly what Sir Kevan Collins did on Wednesday.

It followed the Chancellor, backed by the Prime Minister, saying that schools could only have £1.5 billion to fund the Education Recovery plan. The IFS worked out that it amounts to £50 per pupil. Risible, compared to the Netherlands spending £2,200 per pupil or the US £1,600.

And the thought that just by adding an extra half an hour onto the end of the school day would do the trick is ridiculous. It seems that Collins was supported in his case by Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary. The trouble is that Williamson has very little capital to expend so the Chancellor found it quite easy to swat him away. Rishi Sunak may well come to regret that. Over to you, Rashford.